Carly Simon or Laura Nyro?…who would you choose?

Carly Simon

Carly Simon is easily recognizable, physically and vocally, as a Hall of Famer should be


By Phill Marder

(No. 52 in a series on artists who should be in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, but are not)

Laura Nyro was nominated for the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame three consecutive years. She finally made it this year.

Did Nyro have enough votes? Who knows? The Hall of Fame chooses not to make its voting public. Probably for good reason.

When Nyro makes the Hall of Fame, one has to take a look at some of the names who haven’t, Connie Francis, Linda Ronstadt, Dionne Warwick, Mary Wells, Donna Summer or Cher, for instance. All have been profiled earlier in “Great Blogs of Fire” and all made tons more memorable records than Nyro.

But Nyro was a songwriter of note. True, Nyro did pen a few songs of merit. But then again, Burt Bacharach and Hal David, Bob Crewe, PF Sloan, Jimmy Webb, Felice and Boudleaux Bryant and many other songwriters have accomplishments dwarfing Nyro’s, not to mention the countless singer-songwriters who have written and performed hit after hit with nary a nod of recognition from the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.

Now I’m not picking on Laura Nyro here. Really. Trust me. She was a talented lady who, to some evidently, was Hall of Fame worthy. And maybe those some are correct and I’m a nutcase. But unless you’re going to argue the “I” word which, of course, is impossible to defend or detract from, then everyone mentioned above plus a plethora of others should have preceded her. So my argument isn’t with Nyro. It is, as usual, with the Hall of Fame and its method of induction.

The reason Nyro came to mind this week is because of today’s topic, an artist who matches Nyro in every criteria – she’s a woman, she’s a songwriter, she’s a performer, she recorded at approximately the same time, and her records were released on a major label.

I’m writing about Carly Simon.

And when I’m finished, you tell me why Laura Nyro should be in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame before Carly Simon. And remember, if you choose to make that argument you must do so without using that most foul of four-letter words – influence. You can use any argument you like. But don’t tell me Laura Nyro was more influential than Carly Simon. You can’t prove it and if you can’t prove it, you must remove it.

And also remember, the immortal words of Goldmine reader Paul K. of Kentucky, who so adeptly noted, “It is supposed to be a ‘Hall of Fame’, not a ‘Hall of Give You Some Fame’.”

You don’t have to give Simon fame. If you mention the name Carly Simon to a passer-by on the street, odds are very good they’d be able to tell you she’s a singer. Probably even be able to tell you the name of a hit or two. Try it with Nyro (I have). Make sure you have your phone ready to take a picture of the blank expression almost sure to follow. And certainly, don’t expect the name of a hit or two. She didn’t have any.

Simon wrote and recorded two of the most memorable songs of the ’70s, “You’re So Vain” and “Anticipation.” The former was a No. 1 across the board and listeners are still trying to figure out who she was writing about. I once thought it was me until she got to the lear jet part. I never had a lear jet. I did have an Oldsmobile once. That was a near jet, but I digress – as usual. Singing with her on “You’re So Vain” was, of course, Mick Jagger. I mention this because Nyro supporters will, no doubt, mention artists who will espouse her greatness. Jagger’s name shows that, if the occasion warranted, I could name drop in Simon’s favor, too.

“Anticipation,” besides being a great song and also a major hit, reached legendary status in a ketchup commercial. It has been relished by many. Sorry. My hot dog nature is hard to bottle up.

Carly Simon

This LP topped the Billboard album chart for five weeks in 1972

All told, Simon had nine top 20 singles, including “Mockingbird,” the duet with her former husband, James Taylor (more name dropping). Nyro had none. Simon has had eight top 20 LPs, including “No Secrets,” which closed 1972 at No. 1 and remained there five weeks. While alive, Nyro’s highest charting album was her second, which topped off at No. 32.

Simon was inducted into “The Songwriter’s Hall of Fame” in 1994. Nyro wasn’t inducted until 2010. And remember, songwriting is Nyro’s chief selling point.

Simon won Grammy Awards for “Best New Artist” in 1971, “Best Song Written Specifically for a Motion Picture or Television” for “Let The River Run” from the 1988 film “Working Girl,” and the “Grammy Hall of Fame Award” in 2004 for “You’re So Vain.” She also won the Academy Award and Golden Globe Award for “Let The River Run.”

Nyro won induction to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.

While revisionists will try to tell you Nyro sabotaged her own career by announcing her retirement at 24, the facts show that her 1969 LP “New York Tendaberry” was her highest charting at No. 32 with the next two not even making the top 40. Usually, an artist of Hall of Fame stature sees an audience growth, not a decline, as each disc is released. For instance, Simon’s first two releases topped off at No. 30, but the third hit No. 1, an indication an audience was growing. Four of her next five LPs reached the top 10. And, by the way, Nyro’s “retirement” didn’t stick.

I don’t think Carly Simon should be inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame ahead of those referred to in paragraphs three and four. But certainly, she should be in the same ballpark. And certainly, all those in that ballpark should have been inducted before some currently enshrined.


21 thoughts on “Carly Simon or Laura Nyro?…who would you choose?

  1. What a fine, fine article. I think the Rock Hall has lost all it’s credibility and importance by it’s recent admissions and ongoing omissions. Ms. Simon certainly should have been inducted a LONG, LONG time ago. I’ve heard rumors that some of the omissions are do to Jann Weiner not liking someone. Could that organization really be that petty?

  2. Excellent article. A succinct and well-argued case on Ms. Simon’s behalf. I wonder if I will live to see the inside of that not-so-hallowed hall, which I refuse to visit until Simon and Ronstadt find their way in. I sometimes wonder if these controversial and conspicuous omissions are some sort of publicity ploy – to keep people talking about the Hall of Fame, for better or worse. Ironically, they have only succeeded in diminishing themselves with their pettiness. Looking forward to reading your other 51 articles!

  3. So is commercial success the only thing that counts then? Numbers, numbers, numbers! How many hits, how many records sold, how many stupid awards won, how many this and that? The whole idea of a hall of fame (any hall of fame) is idiotic. Music is an art form, it doesn’t have ANYTHING to do with sales. Laura Nyro is one of the VERY rare pop-rock artists who NEVER compromised her art. She didn’t make music for mass consumption so obviously she could only have a relatively small following. Everyone who’s not completely musically illiterate knows that she ranks up there with Gershwin, Cole Porter, Miles, Billie, Dylan, Hendrix, Mahler or Maria Callas and also the great literary poets of the past. Just like the great artists from centuries past who weren’t best-sellers either when they lived, Laura will have longevity, her music and poetry will continue to be listened to and read and analysed for centuries to come. Laura Nyro DOESN’T NEED a Hall of Fame.

  4. Laura Nyro ‘a sheer brilliance does not compare to others mentioned.Erwin tells it like it is.
    The Hall of Fame is JUST that . Fame. Why not induct Paris Hilton?
    Lara Nyro will never be surpasses. Ever.

  5. Yes indeed! It is not a competition. Laura deserves to be there. So does Carly. What about Janis Ian? The question raised here is WHY and HOW are decisions made? Someone tell Jann and CO. that the internet has made ‘their’ organization ever so transparent.

  6. Don’t worry, Carly is a lock for the RARHOF, it’s only a matter of when, not if. But with Laura, it WAS a matter of if, because she’s long been the best kept secret in the Music Industry. It’s a shame Columbia, and David Geffen took the lazy route, and farmed her songs out to already established radio darlings, instead of making the effort to promote Laura’s superior original versions. But that’s exactly what they did, and because of their short sighted greed, even today, far too many know her only as “The Lady who wrote the songs for the 5th Dimension” IF they know her at all. Laura deserves a better legacy than that, and hopefully her induction will help gain her great Music the well earned attention that it should have gotten all along. I think maybe that’s why they chose her, not to slight Carly,or any one else, but to give a truly great, and sadly under appreciated Artist some recognition that is long overdue.

  7. The irony is that if Laura were alive she would probably not care about her hall of fame induction. When Joni Mitchell was inducted she didn’t bother to show up and it’s very possible that the notoriously private Laura would have done the same. There’s just too much obsession with awards and fame these days and not enough GREAT, ORIGINAL music being made (like Laura’s, Joni’s etc.).

    Ms. Larue: I’m all for Paris Hilton’s induction:-)

  8. seriously? If Carly Simon were as … physically unnoteworthy as Laura Nyro, … I guess what I’m saying is it’s like a round of “f” marry kill. Laura Nyro is the greater talent, no question.

  9. To say like the uninformed author of this article that Laura Nyro only penned a few songs of merit is laughable. Between 1967 and 1971 she made 5 (five) highly acclaimed masterpieces full of great songs (and she made another less well-known absolute masterpiece just before her death while she was battling cancer). How many masterpieces did the Beatles or the Stones make? About the same number, right? What many rock artists did though and Laura never did is cynically milking the cash cow ever since their heyday, cultivating their fame and perpetuating their own myth. So many once good artists live on fame and awards alone nowadays (oh and reunion tours, yawn!) as their inspiration left them decades ago. Laura’s muse was with her right till the end. She may not have had the numbers nor the fame. (She could have had it but she did not want it, she thought fame was silly.) But her art will live on. And that’s the only thing that counts.

  10. What I don’t understand , and many do not, is why Connie Francis has not been indicted. She should have gone in with the first batch. She had the first rock and roll million seller by a female artist and she opened te doors.

  11. The case for Laura Nyro is clear (and has been made already): Her first 5 albums were classics that will live on. Two of them, Eli and New York Tendaberry are masterpieces. And many think her debut was better than either of these two, I do sometimes! This alone puts her in the same category as the other ORIGINAL founders of rock and roll – Beatles, Stones, etc. But she had much more going for her beyond these achievements, another 5 original albums of great music, albeit, god forbid, in a different style than her original work. The plethora of live albums since her release demonstrate what a superb live performer she was. She was truly a triple threat as singer, songwriter and pianist. Listen to the live version of “Save the Country” on “Spread My Wings and Fly” to hear how she could excite an audience just playing the piano and singing. Unbelievable! Carly should and will be inducted in time; she produced a great body of original work over a long period of time that deserves recognition. The real story is the snubbing of women by the RARHOF. The “story” that I heard was that Jann Wenner never liked Laura or her work (I forget if they actually had personal fights). I wonder if Jann’s coming out softened his views on Laura who was famously bisexual/Lesbian in her later years.
    Are you saying the Beatles and Stones are the “original founders of Rock & Roll?”

  12. Without Carly, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is merely a building in Cleveland, Ohio. Omitting Carly Simon is like Cooperstown omitting Willie Mays.

  13. You know, I don’t get the hate on Carly Simon. I like Laura Nyro. She’s wonderful. But when I want to listen to a singer/songwriter I can relate to, and who throws all her inner turmoil and problems with men onto the written page, I go to Carly Simon.

    This may be one of the reasons why CS hasn’t been inducted: She’s a blatantly FEMALE artist, who talks about female things in a female way.

    I tell you what, all you Nyro fanbois, I’ll hold You’re So Vain up to any of Nyro’s songs, and YSV holds up just fine for me. It’s a great song, a timeless song, so bitchy and wickedly funny that women everywhere can relate to it. Most women I know who know her music always think that there would be nothing more cathartic than to call Carly up for a girls night out to gripe about men and how stupid they can be. She’s real. Laura Nyro feels like a snob, and a bit of an artsy fartsy wispy romantic type. She never felt like the kind of girl you talk about how much you hate your ex-husbands with. Carly Simon is that, to a tee.

    Now for the reason I think Carly Simon might be excluded, for real: Jann Werner (aka talentless hack scumbag) only thinks of her as a groupie. She dated Mick Jagger. She married James Taylor. He probably thinks that the only reason she has a music career at all is because she shagged those guys.

    I really think that’s what the wanker has in mind when he thinks of Carly Simon.

  14. It is amazing how these articles always set up female vs female. Can only one woman be inducted into the Hallowed Halls per year?

    I think Laura Nyro is among the very best…not of female artists, but all artists. But article after article imply that she is in the Hall at the expense of other worthy female contenders. Total sexism! I wish people would stop buying into those false dichotomies, into that total BS.
    OK Melissa – How about Laura Nyro vs. Neil Sedaka? Or Laura Nyro vs. Jack Scott? Or Chubby Checker? Or Burt Bacharach? Or Jeff Lynne? Or Johnny Rivers? Or Tommy James? Or Todd Rundgren? or any other male artists whose accomplishments match or dwarf hers?

  15. Besides Connie Francis, Linda Ronstadt, Dionne Warwick, Mary Wells, Donna Summer or Cher, did you know that Heart, Pat Benatar, Joan Jett and Stevie Nicks(as a solo artist) are also not in the Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Fame?
    Linda Ronstadt, Dionne Warwick, Donna Summer, Cher, Heart and Connie Francis all have been profiled earlier in this series. Look under blogs – Great Blogs Of Fire.

  16. The author is a Carly Simon fan, and so am I, but Laura Nyro is a mythical giant of the music world which this author doesn’t seem to understand. Laura Nyro is far more deserving of the Rock Hall than many in there now, in my humble opinion.
    If we’re going to induct so-called “mythical giants” into the Hall of Fame, then the “Mighty Casey” should be inducted into Cooperstown.

  17. Laura Nyro wa sinfluenced by Connie Francis…and this question has been asked many times…Why isn’t Connie in the Hall of Fame!
    Sal – We don’t have to rely on the bs word “influence” to support the credentials of Connie Francis. Her accomplishments speak for themselves. Save “influence” for those who haven’t concrete accomplishments (I won’t mention any names). – Phill. And Sal, if you haven’t already checked it out see…

  18. If it were not for the likes of Laura Nyro, I seriously doubt there would be a Carly Simon singer. Really, she lit up all ladies with a voice and a piano and guitar to start writing. I love Carly, but she was listening to Laura when she decided to begin her octaves.


    Carly Simon released two albums with her sister, Lucy, in 1964. Laura Nyro was just 17 & didn’t have her first release until 1967. So, it’s more likely that Nyro was listening to Simon rather than the other way around.

  19. Cleveland is no definitive measure of greatness is it? I guess I see Carly as a pop musician and Laura as an artist. Laura was the underground sub-culture, Carly the we’re coming out now for a wider and more commercial audience; The same for Carole King’s output, Linda Ronstadt, Helen Reddy, Stevie Nicks, Rita Coolidge – all have mainstream airplay appeal, and that’s perfectly fine. Music is born that way. The Nile Rogers hit Why was a great record, we all love a bit of James Bond, and Coming Around Again was a last number school disco staple when I was in my teens. Carly worked within established melodic rules and added an adult-contempory sheen. She sung an anthem for white coed girls everywhere, expressed the mood of the time as first wave gave way to 2nd.

    When you think of women like Emmylou Harris the McGarrigle sisters Joni and Patti, we’re thinking a little less of commercial songcraft and more about art forms. What Laura did was tear up all the conventions of subject, style, form, rhythm and punctuation, the way Emily Dickinson did on the page or Frida Kahlo on canvas. Laura’s work is less accessible than Carly’s, and more demanding. It has less instant ear-candy, but rewards listeners with a greater emotional range and change of landscape or season. Laura takes you places.

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